‘NE’ER have I seen the market and streets so thoroughly empty!
Still as the grave is the town, clear’d out! I verily fancy
Fifty at most of all our inhabitants still may be found there.
People are so inquisitive! All are running and racing
Merely to see the sad train of poor fellows driven to exile.
Down to the causeway now building, the distance nearly a league is,
And they thitherward rush, in the heat and the dust of the noonday.
As for me, I had rather not stir from my place just to stare at
Worthy and sorrowful fugitives, who, with what goods they can carry,
Leaving their own fair land on the further side of the Rhine-stream,
Over to us are crossing, and wander through the delightful
Nooks of this fruitful vale, with all its twistings and windings.
Wife, you did right well to bid our son go and meet them,
Taking with him old linen, and something to eat and to drink too,
Just to give to the poor; the rich are bound to befriend them.
How he is driving along! How well he holds in the horses!
Then the new little carriage looks very handsome; inside it
Four can easily sit, besides the one on the coachbox.
This time he is alone; how easily-turns it the corner!’
Thus to his wife the host of the Golden Lion discoursed,
Sitting at ease in the porch of his house adjoining the market.
Then replied as follows the shrewd and sensible hostess
‘Father, I don’t like giving old linen away, for I find it
Useful in so many ways, ’tis not to he purchased for money
Just when it’s wanted. And yet to-day I gladly have given
Many excellent articles, shirts and covers and suchlike;
For I have heard of old people and children walking half-naked.
Will you forgive me, too, for having ransacked your presses?
That grand dressing-gown, cover’d with Indian flowers all over,
Made of the finest calico, lined with excellent flannel,
I have despatch’d with the rest; ’tis thin, old, quite out of fashion.’
But the worthy landlord only smiled, and then answer’d
I shall dreadfully miss that ancient calico garment,
Genuine Indian stuff! They’re not to be had any longer.
Well! I shall wear it no more. And your poor husband henceforward
Always must wear a surtout, I suppose, or commonplace jacket,
Always must put on his boots; good bye to cap and to slippers!’
‘See,’ continued his wife, ‘a few are already returning
Who have seen the procession, which long ago must have pass’d by.
See how dusty their shoes are, and how their faces are glowing
Each one carries a handkerchief, wiping the sweat from his forehead.
I, for one, wouldn’t hurry and worry myself in such weather
Merely to see such a sight! I’m certain to hear all about it.’
And the worthy father, speaking with emphasis, added
‘Such fine weather seldom lasts through the whole of the harvest
And we’re bringing the fruit home, just as the hay we brought lately,
Perfectly dry; the sky is clear, no cloud’s in the heavens,
And the whole day long delicious breezes are blowing.
Splendid weather I call it! The corn already too ripe is,
And to-morrow begin we to gather the plentiful harvest.’
Whilst he was thus discoursing, the number of men and of women
Crossing the market and going towards home kept ever increasing;
And there return’d amongst others, bringing with him his daughters,
On the other side of the market, their prosperous neighbour,
Going full speed to his newbuilt house, the principal merchant,
Riding inside an open carriage (in Landau constructed).
All the streets were alive; for the town, though small, was well peopled,
Many a factory throve there, and many a business also.
Long sat the excellent couple under the doorway, exchanging
Many a passing remark on the people who happen’d to pass them.
Presently thus to her husband exclaim’d the good-natured hostess
‘See! Yon comes the minister; with him is walking the druggist:
They’ll be able to give an account of all that has happen’d,
What they witness’d, and many a sight I fear which was painful.’
Both of them came in a friendly manner, and greeted the couple,
Taking their seats on the wooden benches under the doorway,
Shaking the dust from their feet, their handkerchiefs using to fan them.
Presently, after exchanging reciprocal greetings, the druggist
Open’d his mouth, and almost peevishly vented his feelings
‘What strange creatures men are! They all resemble each other,
All take pleasure in staring, when troubles fall on their neighbours.
Ev’ry one runs to see the flames destroying a dwelling,
Or a poor criminal led in terror and shame to the scaffold.
All the town has been out to gaze at the sorrowing exiles,
None of them bearing in mind that a like misfortune hereafter,
Possibly almost directly, may happen to be their own portion.
I can’t pardon such levity; yet ’tis the nature of all men.’
Thereupon rejoin’d the noble and excellent pastor,
He, the charm of the town, in age scarce more than a stripling:–
(He was acquainted with life, and knew the wants of his hearers,
Fully convinced of the worth of the Holy Scriptures, whose mission
Is to reveal man’s fate, his inclinations to fathom;
He was also well read in the best of secular writings.)
‘I don’t like to find fault with any innocent impulse
Which in the mind of man Dame Nature has ever implanted;
For what reason and intellect ne’er could accomplish, is often
Done by some fortunate, quite irresistible instinct within him.
If mankind were never by curiosity driven,
Say, could they e’er have found out for themselves the wonderful manner
Things in the world range in order? For first they Novelty look for,
Then with untiring industry seek to discover the Useful,
Lastly they yearn for the Good, which makes them noble and worthy.
All through their youth frivolity serves as their joyous companion,
Hiding the presence of danger, and. swiftly effacing the traces
Caused by misfortune and grief, as soon as their onslaught is over.
Truly the man’s to be praised who, as years roll onward, develops
Out of such glad disposition an intellect settled and steady,–
Who, in good fortune as well as misfortune, strives zealously, nobly;
For what is Good he brings forth, replacing whatever is injured.’
Then in a friendly voice impatiently spoke thus the hostess:–
‘Tell us what have you seen; I am eagerly longing to hear it.’
Then with emphasis answer’d the druggist:–‘ The terrible stories
Told me to-day will serve for a long time to make me unhappy.
Words would fail to describe the manifold pictures of mis’ry.
Far in the distance saw we the dust, before we descended
Down to the meadows; the rising hillocks hid the procession
Long from our eyes, and little could we distinguish about it.
When, however, we reach’d the road that winds thro’ the valley,
Great was the crowd and the noise of the emigrants mix’d with the waggons.
We unhappily saw poor fellows passing in numbers,
Some of them showing how bitter the sense of their sorrowful flight was,
Some with a feeling of joy at saving their lives in a hurry.
Sad was the sight of the manifold goods and chattels pertaining
Unto a well-managed house, which the careful owner’s accustom’d
Each in its proper position to place, and in regular order,
Always ready for use, for all are wanted and useful.–
Sad was the sight of them now, on many a waggon and barrow
Heap’d in thorough confusion, and hurriedly huddled together.
Over a cupboard was placed a sieve and a coverlet woollen;
Beds in the kneeding troughs lay, and linen over the glasses.
Ah! and the danger appear’d to rob the men of their senses,
Just as in our great fire of twenty years ago happen’d,
When what was worthless they saved, and left all the best things behind them.
So on the present occasion with heedless caution they carried
Many valueless chattels, o’erlading the cattle and horses,–
Common old boards and barrels, a birdcage next to a goosepen.
Women and children were gasping beneath the weight of their bundles,
Baskets and tubs full of utterly useless articles, bearing.
(Man is always unwilling the least of his goods to abandon.)
Thus on its dusty way advanced the crowded procession,
All in hopeless confusion. First one, whose cattle were weaker,
Fain would slowly advance, while others would eagerly hasten.
Then there arose a scream of half-crush’d women and children,
And a lowing of cattle, with yelping of dogs intermingled,
And a wailing of aged and sick, all sitting and shaking,
Ranged in their beds on the top of the waggon too-heavily laden.
Next some lumbering wheel, push’d out of the track by the pressure,
Went to the edge of the roadway; the vehicle fell in the ditch then,
Rolling right over, and throwing, in falling, the men who were in it
Far in the field, screaming loudly, their persons however uninjured.
Then the boxes roll’d off and tumbled close to the waggon.
Those who saw them failing full surely expected to see them
Smash’d to pieces beneath the weight of the chests and the presses.
So the waggon lay broken, and those that it carried were helpless,
For the rest of the train went on, and hurriedly pass’d them,
Thinking only of self, and carried away by the current.
So we sped to the spot, and found the sick and the aged
Who, when at home and in bed, could scarcely endure their sad ailments,
Lying there on the ground, all sighing and groaning in anguish,
Stifled by clouds of dust, and scorch’d by the fierce sun of summer.
Then replied in tones of compassion the sensitive landlord
Hermann I trust will find them and give them refreshment and clothing.
I should unwillingly see them: I grieve at the eight of such sorrow.
Touch’d by the earliest news of the sad extent of the suffering,
Hastily sent we a trifle from out of our superabundance,
Just to comfort a few, and then our minds were more easy.
Now let us cease to discourse on such a sorrowful subject,
For men’s hearts are easily overshadow’d by terror,
And by care, more odious far to me than misfortune.
Now let us go to a cooler place, the little back-parlour;
There the sun never shines, and the walls are so thick that the hot air
Never can enter; and mother shall forthwith bring us a glass each
Full of fine Eighty-three, well fitted to drive away trouble.
This is a bad place for drinking; the flies will hum round the glasses.’
So they all went inside, enjoying themselves in the coolness.
Then in a well-cut flask the mother carefully brought them
Some of that clear good wine, upon a bright metal waiter
With those greenish rummers, the fittingest goblets for Rhine wine.
So the three sat together, around the glistening polish’d
Circular large brown table-Äon massive feet it was planted.
Merrily clink’d together the glasses of host and of pastor,
But the other one thoughtfully held his glass without moving,
And in friendly fashion the host thus ask’d him to join them:–
‘Drink, good neighbour, I pray! A merciful God has protected
Us in the past from misfortune, and will protect us in future.
All must confess that since He thought fit to severely chastise us,
When that terrible fire occurr’d, He has constantly bless’d us.
And watch’d over us constantly, just as man is accustom’d
His eye’s precious apple to guard, that dearest of members.
Shall He not for the future preserve us, and be our Protector?
For ’tis in danger we learn to appreciate duly His Goodness.
This so flourishing town, which He built again from its ashes
By the industrious hands of its burghers, and bless’d it so richly,
Will He again destroy it, and render their toil unavailing?’
Cheerfully answer’d the excellent pastor, in accents of mildness
‘Steadfastly cling to this faith, and cherish such worthy opinions;
In good fortune they’ll make you prudent, and then in misfortune
Well-grounded hopes they’ll supply, and furnish you true consolation.’
Then continued the host, with thoughts full of manhood and wisdom
‘Oft have I greeted with wonder the rolling flood of the Rhine stream,
When, on my business trav’lling, I’ve once more come to its borders.
Grand has it ever appear’d, exalting my feelings and senses;
But I could never imagine that soon its beautiful margin
Into a wall would be turn’d, to keep the French from our country,
And its wide-spreading bed a ditch to hinder and check them.
So by Nature we’re guarded, we’re guarded by valorous Germans,
And by the Lord we’re guarded; who then would foolishly tremble?
Weary the combatants are, and all things indicate peace soon;
And when at length the long-expected festival’s holden
Here in our church, and the bells chime in with the organ in chorus,
And the trumpets are blowing, the noble Te Deum upraising,
Then on that selfsame day I fain would see, my good pastor,
Our dear Hermann kneel with his bride at the altar before you,
And the glad festival held through the length and breadth of the country
Will henceforward to me be a glad anniversary also!
But I am grieved to observe that the youth, who is always so active
When he is here at home, abroad is so slow and so timid.
Little at any time cares he to mix with the rest of the people;
Yes, he even avoids young maidens’ society ever,
And the frolicsome dance, that great delight of young people.’
Thus he spake, and then listen’d. The sound of the stamping of horses
Drawing nearer was heard; and then the roll of the carriage,
Which, with impetuous speed, now thunder’d under the gateway.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Fate and Sympathy
‘NE’ER have I seen the market and streets so thoroughly empty!